Children work on their homework after arriving at the Beaufort Boys and Girls Club Thursday afternoon. The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Beaufort Area is starting a fundraising push to raise $200,000 by Sept. 30. The club says it has had five years of decreased donations and grants as well as higher operating costs.(Photo: Jonathan Dyer )
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When 6-year-old Lilly Williams gets out of school at Beaufort Elementary, she hops on a bus to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Beaufort Area. The teachers there help her with homework, and she gets to play her favorite game, dodge ball.
What she doesn't know -- though her parents do -- is that the club is struggling financially and cutting the programs that the Williams family relies on for affordable after-school and summer care.
"My wife started working a few months ago, and we needed somewhere for (Lilly) to go," Mark Williams of Beaufort said while picking up his daughter Thursday from the center at 1100 Boundary St. "Otherwise we'd have a private sitter -- but then you wouldn't have the interaction with the other children -- and that's expensive."
The Beaufort organization is cutting its summer program from about 160 children to 80 to save about $50,000, and it wants to raise $200,000 by Sept. 30 to avoid a projected deficit of $213,000, said Chris Protz, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry.
These are the first steps in a three-year plan to replenish the organization's savings, he said. It has overspent on operations, staff and programs the past three years and had to take more than $1 million out of savings, leaving about $300,000, of which $250,000 cannot be spent, Protz said.
Annual deficits have ranged from $350,000 to this year's $213,000, he said.
Grants and donations also have dried up, although it did receive a $50,000 grant from the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation this year. In 2006, it had a little more than $1 million in revenue. This year, it will bring in an estimated $495,000, Protz said.
Protz joined the organization in March and was unable to explain the history of the deficit. Attempts to reach Karen Golden, chairman of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry board, for comment were unsuccessful.
Protz said the organization will drastically cut programs to try to bring expenses in line with revenue.
"We're not going to take money from our reserves, and we need to be good stewards," he said.
More drastic measures could be taken if the latest efforts fail, he said.
"Worst-scenario would be we suspend operations until we are able to evaluate and determine what type of program we have and what we can continue to provide," he said.
The Beaufort clubs are trying to sell the former teen center, which closed about a year ago and its programs relocated to the main center. It costs about $25,000 a year to maintain basic utilities and insurance on the Harrington Street building, and Protz said the organization hopes to sell it for $350,000.
Members of the board and the parent association will solicit donations from residents and businesses. People will be asked to sponsor center operations by the hour ($186), day ($1,488) or week ($7,440).
Fundraisers also are being planned and will include car washes, a golf tournament, a 5K walk and run, and a concert with Marlena Smalls and the Hallelujah Singers.